Welcome to Bamburgh 2013!

The Bamburgh Research Project season 2013 has officially begun!


Blue sky over the windmill. Here’s hoping that there is more on the way!

Large scale cleaning has begun in Trench 1, and Graham D and Jess are hard at work getting the Trench opened up and ready to go.


Finds Supervisor Kirstie watches as cleaning takes place in T1

Our Kaims Krew are getting their gear together- The bell tent needs to go up and the tea paraphernalia need to be ready before work can begin. In the meantime, they are checking over the equipment and ensuring that everything is in working order.


Graeme Young brings everyone up to date on current archaeological best practice.

We’ll be working hard to keep you up to date with our season, so make sure you follow us on Twitter @brparchaeology, Facebook on our fan page and our new Instagram will show photos fresh from the trenches.

Digital Surveys On Site

Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of welcoming Ben Bennett of Digital Surveys to the Bamburgh Castle site. Ben spent some time creating laser generated three-dimensional images of both Trench 1 and Trench 3. These highly detailed images are generated by scanning the whole site with a laser from several angles, and incorporating the resulting data to give an image of the surrounding area.

You can explore examples of this technique, including work done just along the coast from us at Alnwick Castle, on the Digital Surveys website.

Ben will be back with us later in the season to do some work on the Castle Keep. We’ll keep you posted on any developments, and look forward to sharing some of his work with you soon!

Trench 3 Update

Trench 3 produces bulk finds of animal bone and pottery all through the season, and this week has been no exception. In addition to this, however, we’ve had several stycas (Anglo-Saxon copper coins) and a copper object that Finds Supervisor Kate Clarke has tentatively identified as a brooch.

There was a styca hoard uncovered from a similar area in trench three in 2009. These styca, and the ones recovered from trench three this week, all display evidence of burning to some degree, and were recovered from a context associated with burning:

Stycas, Trench 3

Stycas recovered as surface finds from Trench 3

Copper Brooch, Trench 3

Fragments of a copper brooch recovered from Trench 3.

One suggestion is that this area of the West Ward was used as a mint in the 7th century. This argument is supported by the proliferation of styca and by the burning associated with them, which could imply metal working. It has also been suggested that these coins were used as tokens in Northumberland in the post-Saxon period.

Our most probable interpretation is that copper was being collected and melted down for re-use during the medieval period. This is supported by the evidence of burning and metal working associated with the contexts in which the styca were found. The copper brooch uncovered this week would also support this theory. As we continue to work in trench three and continue to uncover finds, we’ll be re-visiting our interpretations around this.

Trench 1 Update

After a thorough cleaning  earlier this week, Trench 1 was opened for the season.

So far, finds from Trench 1 include a lot of horse shoe nails and a single piece of copper alloy. Just yesterday, there was a large piece of corroded iron recovered from Trench 3 that Finds Supervisor Kate Clarke has tentatively identified as a door fitting. The context of these finds has been identified as medieval, possible circa. 12th century:

Copper Alloy, Trench 1

Copper alloy fragment recovered from Trench 1

Iron Object, Trench 1

Iron object, tentatively identified as a door fitting.

The horse shoe nails join an array of other horse-related finds from previous seasons, including a horse harness and horse harness pendants recovered in 2007. The finds were found on top of an interior floor surface of a medieval building close to St. Oswald’s Gate at the original entrance to the castle. Putting all of this evidence together, we can suggest that there was equestrian activity in the area during the medieval period. We aim to find out more as the season goes on.

Spring Cleaning On Site

The season so far has been a busy one for everyone here at the BRP!

The week started with some vigorous cleaning and de-greening: Trenches 1 and 3 were colonised by some rather viscious weeds over off-season period, and we had to fight them off before we could get at the archaeology.

Staff and students busy weeding away in Trench 3.

There were several surface finds recovered during cleaning – these are the finds that have weathered out during the winter:

Iron Object weathered out of Trench 3 (pre-weeding!), tentatively identified as a buckle.

Now that everything is clean, we can start to press on!

BBC’s Countryfile Team at Bamburgh

Today Bamburgh village and Castle has played host to the BBC’s Countryfile team, who are filming in the village for an upcoming episode of the programme, which follows the people, places and stories making news in the British countryside. Presenter Ellie Harrison spent some time talking with Graeme, Gerry, Kate and the team – we’ll let you know when you can expect to see us on TV screens in the UK!

Grame, John and Gerry talk to presenter Ellie Harrison (centre)

Filming gets underway!

Digging is Underway for 2010!

Welcome to the 2010 excavations of the Bamburgh Research Project!

This season, we’ll be digging from the 7th June to 1st August inclusive. Work got underway on Monday morning and we’re currently working hard to clear our trenches of the debris and vegetation that has encroached over the off-season period. 

What are we planning this season?

The 2010 season of archaeological work to be undertaken at Bamburgh will build on previous seasons within the two major excavation trenches and the post excavation processing. The BRP is also welcoming film crews from the BBC and Time Team this year, who’ll be filming with us later in the season. 

Trench 1

Excavation within Trench 1 will continue concentrate on the gradual reduction of the medieval deposits in the southern half of the trench with the long term aim of revealing more of the early medieval buildings encountered during earlier seasons in the northern part of the trench. It’s hoped that the late early medieval layers will be reached by the end of 2010 so that that the work on the building can commence in 2011.

The excavation will be conducted within the present bounds of the trench and no extension of the trench is proposed. Archaeology Supervisor Neal Lythe will be heading up the excavation team in Trench 1.

Trench 3

Having successfully identified the expected later medieval features intruding in the late early medieval layers (10th to 11th century AD) currently under excavation, the 2010 season will concentrate on investigating and characterising the metal producing layers at the south end of the trench as well as identifying other potential features. These will need to be localised in outline and the burnt layers or deposits investigated to identify, where possible, the nature of the activity that produced them. 

The aims of the season are to continue to reduce present levels towards those reached by Brian Hope-Taylor during his excavations in the West Ward in the 1960s and 1970s. Our ultimate intention is to join up the two sequences.

As with Trench 1, we aren’t planning any extensions to the trench. Archaeology Supervisor John Castling is in charge of the excavation work in Trench 3 this season. 

Inner ward

This season, Time Team will be joining us for a week in July. During the course of their time at Bamburgh it’s been proposed by Time Team that a principle area of geophysical investigation may be the Inner Ward. Preliminary discussion with Graeme Attwood of Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (GSB) has led to the possibility of an extensive radar survey being undertaken in the hope of identifying buried masonry structures. Watch this space for results!

Lidar-type survey

A site-based laser survey of the castle has been proposed by Digital Surveys to the BRP.  We’re hoping to welcome the LiDAR team in the first week of excavation. We’ll tell you more about the survey later in the week.

Keep checking back with us – we’re aiming to update several times daily this season so that you can keep as up to date as possible with out work and our finds!